Greencastle-Antrim extends welcoming arms

PAT FRIDGEN
Ben Thomas Jr., president of the 37th Triennial Old Home Week, welcomes visitors during the Official Opening Saturday.

"Welcome home" was the overriding theme of the Official Opening of the 37th Triennial Old Home Week. At the 11:30 a.m. ceremony Saturday, July 31, speakers shared their similar greetings to the crowd gathered on Center Square. Under a bright sun, past and present OHW dignitaries and guests presided from a platform in the northeast corner.

Dr. Edwin R. Smith, Professor Emeritus, West Virginia University, shared his perspective as a native who left Greencastle and returned for his retirement years. But first he clarified how long he was going to speak. Pastor Wayne Warren had invited him to be the featured orator and Smith had queried as to the topic and time allotted. The response was 'Coming home' and 15 minutes.

"Get this," Smith declared. "This is a preacher telling a professor how long to talk!"

Smith graduated from Greencastle High School in 1952, returned to teach history, then left town for 35 years to pursue further education and expand his career. He and his wife Patricia first retired to Florida. They came back to their roots in 2002 because the southern state was overcrowded, far from family, and a long drive to anywhere.

Smith pointed out the benefits of living in Greencastle. He was back with family and friends, the location was ideal for easy trips to many vacation destinations and historical sites, four seasons existed without the worst weather nature had to offer, quality healthcare was available, and Greencastle itself had much to brag about.

The Greencastle-Antrim High School athletic program showed "competition as intense as at West Virginia University," he said. The school system and Besore Memorial Library were outstanding. Hunting and fishing were good.

Though Thomas Wolfe wrote in 1940 that you couldn't go home again, "if he were alive today I'd suggest he is wrong," said Smith. "Greencastle was and is my hometown."

Immediately after he stepped down, the town clock chimed the hour of noon.

OHW president Ben Thomas Jr. spread his arms. "Was that perfect timing or what?"

He thanked the 47 committees and 500 volunteers that made Old Home Week a reality. Then he performed his official duty.

"By the powers vested in me, I declare all events are now officially open."

Following a countdown from 10, he concluded, "We're open! Continue the handshakes and hugs all week long."

Other people involved in the program were Wayne Warren, who expressed his excitement for the week, and Rev. Joseph Stahura, St. Mark the Evangelist, who offered the invocation and benediction.

Mayor Robert Eberly told the crowd, "Welcome to Greencastle. Make yourself at home." He was proud of a community and the OHW committees that carried on the long tradition.

Antrim Township Board of Supervisors chairman Rick Baer thanked Thomas and his staff and said, "Let's have a great week."

Patti Divelbiss played the National Anthem and Boy Scout Troop 99 led the Pledge of Allegiance. Divelbiss also sang 'Old Friends' after stating, "It certainly expresses the theme of Old Home Week." She closed with 'God Bless America.'

Warren introduced past OHW presidents: Richard L. Fisher, 23rd; Tom Fox, 25th; Wayne Talhelm, 28th; Robert Reymer, 29th; Frank Mowen, 33rd; Greg Hoover, 35th; and Jeff Shank, 36th.

Also in attendance were board members Carol Christophel and Ed Wine.

Old Home Week board members placed a wreath at the grave of OHW founder Phillip E. Baer and his wife Jennie. Visiting Cedar Hill Cemetery after the Official Opening were, from left: treasurer Ed Wine, president Ben Thomas Jr., and secretary Carol Christophel.